The oldest spice known to us
If you visit tourist places in Goa and Kerala, you can visit spice gardens.Some plantation owners have improvised their spice gardens into tourist attractions.You can see a variety of plants where different spices come from.The guide will answer your questions and clarify your doubts.Your host will serve you authentic local meals in virgin surroundings and arrange a traditional dance.
We Indians use a lot of spices in their daily food.But most of us do not know where the spices come from.Someone suggested that I should write about the spices in my blog.So here we go.
This one on Haldi (Turmeric) is another in a series on Spices of India.Haldi is the only spice which is produced almost entirely in India.Indians consume 80% and export the remaining 20%
Origin of the Name
The English name for Haldi is Turmeric – often misspelled Tumeric.The scientific name is Curcuma longa.It is also known as Kunyit in some Asian countries.
What is Haldi
Haldi rhizomes (root) is similar in appearance to ginger root. But when it is peeled, it is bright yellow in color. The rhizomes are boiled for several hours in fresh water and then dried in the sun or in hot ovens at about 60 degrees celsius.Then they are ground into the deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice.
Cultivation and Harvesting
The Haldi plant grows in the plains of India in temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees C. with a good annual rainfall of 1500 mm or more per annum.
The plants mature between 7 and 9 months. The mature plants are gathered for their rhizomes. Some of the rhizomes are used for re-seeding in the following year.
Haldi has a bitter, peppery flavour with a mustard smell.
It is extensively used in Indian cooking, in curries, in rice and vegetable preparations.
Traditionally, our grandmothers used to grind dried Haldi roots with mortar and pestle.But now, it is available and mostly used in powdered form.It is often used in place of saffron for its saffron like color.
Haldi is antiseptic and anti inflammatory.
Haldi paste is the common home remedy for cuts, bruises, burns and inflammation.
Haldi has antibacterial properties.Its active ingredient curcumin has anti-tumoral (anti-cancer) properties.It also helps cure arthritis and psoriasis.Research about its medical properties is going on in different laboratories.
Cosmetics Haldi is also a strong anti allergic. It is used in a large number of cosmetic creams.
Haldi paste is applied to bride and groom before marriage in several parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.It is believed that Haldi gives a glow to the skin and kills the harmful bacteria on the skin.
In spite of its rich colour, Haldi cannot be used as a fabric dye because its colour is not very lightfast. It fades on exposure to light. Even then, Indian women use Haldi to dye their saris. This may be because of its medicinal properties.
Haldi is also used to deter ants. We do not know how Haldi repels ants, but it works.
Haldi is probably the oldest spice known to us.Its use dates back to the Vedic period, or nearly 4000 years.Haldi is sometimes called ‘Indian saffron’ because of its brilliant yellow color. Indian Haldi is the best in the world.It may give us a cure for cancer, arthritis and psoriasis.